Tag: steve phillips

What If Pedro Martinez Didn’t Sign with the Mets?

So, last night I was watching Bob Costas’ “Studio 42” interview with Pedro Martinez. One of the discussion points was Pedro’s leaving Boston for the Mets, and Martinez made very clear that he wanted very much to stay in Boston, and would have passed on Omar Minaya’s 4-year offer for a 3-year deal from the Red Sox, had Larry Lucchino not “waited till the last minute” / presented the contract so late in the process (according to Pedro, it was within 15 minutes before the deadline).

I vaguely remembered this turn of events, but hearing it again — and now with the benefit of hindsight — I really have to wonder: what if Lucchino had made that 3-year offer earlier, and Pedro re-signed with the Bosox? How might that have changed the course of history for the New York Mets?

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Steve Phillips Was Right After All

On national television in May 2009, Steve Phillips made the bold statement that the Mets should trade Carlos Beltran. This caused quite a ruckus in the blogosphere, but I supported the idea. Mind you, my argument for dealing Beltran was wildly different from Phillps’ — but the end result was the same.

Back then, there was still this fantasy brewing that the Mets were a playoff-contending team, and so people thought Beltran was central to their expected success — a “core player” so to speak. Phillips saw Beltran as a “flawed” core player — one who wasn’t as “perfect” as Albert Pujols or Derek Jeter (his examples). Ironically, the true fallacy of Phillips’ argument was that he bought into the same nonsense suggesting that the Mets would be a postseason team in 2009 — his feeling was that the Mets should trade Beltran for a player or players who had more “grit”.

It was dumb on many levels. But if “the ends justify the means”, then Phillips was right on target

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Omar Minaya’s Backward Plan

For several years, many pundits (including myself) have criticized Omar Minaya for his lack of a “Plan B”, or “backup plan”.

It turns out that we simply didn’t understand Minaya’s genius. He never had a “backup plan” because from the beginning he’s been working with a “backward plan”.

Huh?

We have to go back far in time to explain — specifically, to June 12, 2003, when Steve Phillips was fired.

It was on that day that Jeff and Fred Wilpon announced a new direction for the organization.

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The More Things Change

… the more they stay the same. That’s the saying, right?

If you saw this printed somewhere today, I bet following snippet would not be surprising:

This ship has been off course for three seasons, not because of a lack of resources, but because of a lack of judgment. The Mets began the year with a payroll … which is second only to the Yankees’ … They have nothing to show for it but a clubhouse of aging stars with big names, big contracts and big injuries.

(the GM) sold Wilpon on the notion that you had to win with big names in New York, that the fans weren’t patient enough to wait for rebuilding, that you had to do it now. Forget the farm system.

But Wilpon apparently came to the conclusion that the Mets’ salvation was not exclusively found in high-priced stars. Yesterday, he made an intriguing observation. He said he knows now that a hefty payroll does not ensure success. ”We’ve learned that painfully.”

More than once yesterday he said, ”We’re going to get younger and more athletic.”

But you might be mildly surprised to find out that the above was published on June 13, 2003 in The New York Times.

If you don’t remember, these were the words printed when GM Steve Phillips was fired. Jim Duquette replaced him on an interim, and then “permanent” basis, and within a year Scott Kazmir was traded for Victor Zambrano and Ty Wigginton for Kris Benson so that the Mets could “play meaningful games in September”. Not long after that meaningless September, Omar Minaya was hired to right the ship.

Speaking of, does this sound familiar? (from the September 29, 2004 edition of The New York Times):

It is difficult to determine the impact of any Mets general manager because the team’s power structure so often appears split. Although major league executives generally believe the best way to run a team is to let the general manager make the most important decisions and then receive clearance from ownership, the Mets rely on committees to hash out strategy, usually soliciting a wide range of opinions.

Jeff Wilpon directs the day-to-day operation of the club, the superscouts Al Goldis and Bill Livesey have input, and veteran players and coaches sometimes offer opinions, too. Minaya knows from experience what he is getting into. Having emigrated with his family from the Dominican Republic to Queens as a child, he became an assistant general manager for the Mets in 1997 and became a senior assistant general manager one year later.

I.e.: the “collegial organization” that Steve Phillips referred to recently.

Minaya hired manager Willie Randolph in part because of Randolph’s excellent reputation for working with youngsters such as Alfonso Soriano. You see, the Mets were going to build a pennant contender through their farm system and around their youth — David Wright and Jose Reyes. That idea went out the window a year later, when Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran were signed to obnoxious contracts.

Today, Joel Sherman touched on this subject as well — and interestingly, holds “conspiracy theories” similar to the ones we’ve been drumming up here for a while:

In the past week, Minaya proclaimed the Mets “buyers” in the trade market at a moment when they were six games under .500, fourth in the NL East, and tied for eighth in the wild card, 7 ½ back. Good tickets still available at Citi Field in case you are interested.

and …

The Wilpons’ 1-2 strategy was to make sure the criticism was deflected away from them — because ownership can talk accountability, but it really is not great at accepting it — while beginning the process of convincing fans that the following season would be different. Translation: What do we have to do to begin motivating you to start buying tickets again? So Art Howe was fired as manager and Jim Duquette was demoted from general manager to go sit in the corner. A good leaking campaign ensued blaming that duo for everything short of the Hindenburg going down. You were supposed to be distracted from remembering that the Wilpons hired the people who messed up.

Sherman goes on to predict that the Mets will “…try to recruit a big-name general manager with the idea of convincing fans that different leadership would know properly how to surround a talented base of Santana, K-Rod, Beltran, David Wright and Jose Reyes with better supplementary players” and, failing at that, hire Tony LaRussa as manager, who “… would bring along his trusted pitching coach Dave Duncan, with the idea being that they always seem to get the most out of whatever talent is put in front of them”.

It’s not that far-fetched a theory, and it fits the pattern that the Wilpons have been following for over a decade. The names may change, but the story remains the same.

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Why Steve Phillips is Right About Beltran

steve-phillips-metsSo much to-do over a few little comments by Steve Phillips

Yes, I also watched the game last night on ESPN, and for part of the time did not use the mute button. Yes, I agree that Joe Morgan, Steve Phillips, and Jon Miller are not the best broadcast team. No, I don’t understand anything Morgan says. Yes, I disagree with 99% of what Phillips says.

But one thing I do agree with Phillips on, sort of, is the Carlos Beltran issue. If I were the Mets GM, I would absolutely consider trading Carlos Beltran at the end of this season. Not because he’s lacking edge (even if he is) or clutchness (ditto), not because he’s imperfect (aren’t we all?), not because he lacks leadership skills (there are at least 20 other Mets guilty of the same), and not because he’s an airhead (he is, you just don’t notice it when he’s hitting .400). Rather, following are my reasons why it would make sense to explore the possibility of dealing Beltran next winter.

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Phillips Spills Beans on Madoff Relationship

How close were the Wilpons and Bernie Madoff? Just ask former Mets GM Steve Phillips, who had this to say last night on ESPN:

“I heard Bernie Madoff’s name once a week every week for 13 years,” said Phillips, who worked in the Mets front office from 1990 to 2003, the last six as general manager. “He was that close of friends and had a relationship with the Wilpons.”

Again: “once a week every week for 13 years”. Ouch.

We already heard that Fred and Bernie were trusted friends, as are their sons, who were high school chums. But we were assured that Madoff’s Ponzi scheme had little effect on the running of the Mets.

But, how could that be possible, when Steve Phillips — a man who was most assuredly on the baseball side of the business — constantly heard Madoff’s name bandied about?

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